The September Issue #areyourepresented Zeitgeist. Op-Ed By Tamara Cincik.
In April we hosted our first #areyourepresented panel discussion which we have since taken to Graduate Fashion Week, Citadel and Wilderness Festivals. Why? Because what became evident to us at Fashion Roundtable: a group of fashion, economics and political experts, was that we have in the majority had to smash glass or concrete ceilings to achieve our successes: each time being the exception that changes the statistic and the demographic. As we collated the stats: 0.4% of journalists are Muslim, 6% are black and in fashion design 9% are from BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds (the same percentage coincidentally as working class inclusion), it has become increasingly evident that we have to open up the conversation to highlight that in 2018, fashion, politics, business and public life need to represent our communities and our values.
It’s been 53 years since Donyale Luna modelled for Harpers Bazaar in 1965, becoming the first black woman cover star and then again in 1966 for UK Vogue, but it has taken 52 years for UK Vogue to give it's all important September issue to another woman of colour, with Edward Enninful styling Rihanna, shot by Nick Knight. Interestingly Enninful's editorship of UK Vogue has seen a readership rise of 7.5% in a difficult print media market. Meanwhile in New York, Beyonce took full editorial control of her cover for US Vogue (also the first woman of colour for their September issue), including photographer choice, commissioning another first: Tyler Mitchell, as the first black photographer since US Vogue was launched in 1892, to shoot the cover. UK ELLE shot Slick Woods, pregnant and radiant for their September issue, their Deputy Editor Kenya Hunt who has spoken on our panel events, wrote about this for the Evening Standard: "When I moved to London 10 years ago, newsstands were ever more homogeneous- presumably because it was thought there were few black women to inspire readers of all races to spend £3 or £4. Black audiences will spend when we see ourselves represented."
What does this say about how talent is perceived and the meritocracy versus white privilege debate, when the fact that we have 10 international covers of the most important publication issue of the year, and the conversation is about race? As much as this is a clear indication that Fashion Roundtable's work on representation is timely, it also begs the question who was being booked before and why? If these are all concrete ceiling smashing firsts, then surely there are talented black photographers and gorgeous BAME actresses and models who have not reached their potential. Beyonce said of her commission: "If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighbourhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own."
Representation is not merely timely, its late. In the year when Marvel's Black Panther smashed cinema expectations becoming the third movie in history to cross the $700 million United States domestic box office plateau and continues to out-sell the last seven Marvel Cinematic Universe movies combined, we have to change our expectations of who is our consumer and what they want to buy. Rihanna's Fenty cosmetics brand is predicted to outsell Kylie Jenner's $800m beauty company and estimated to be worth a $1bn by 2022. Meanwhile Pat Macgrath Lab which launched only 3 years ago is already there, worth an incredible $1bn. To not respect and include diverse voices and communities is not only out of step with the consumer, it is clearly bad business.